Originally published on The ECOreport
Canada used to lead the world in promoting sustainability but, according to Chris Winter of Canada Conserves, “has fallen off the mark.” We have an opportunity to change that. Initiatives like the Leap Manifesto and the Province of Quebec’s Sustainable Development Plan show the potential is still there. Our fundamental weakness is a lack social vision and high-level government planning. These are some of the conclusions behind the newly released Canada Conserves’ report card, in which Canada gets a “C” in sustainable leadership.
We Would Have Got An “A” In 1987
We would have received an “A” if the report had been released three decades ago.
“We used to have the round tables on the environment and the economy. Back in 1987, when the Brundtland Report came out, Canada was the first off the mark in saying we are going to make this happen. Every province, pretty well, had a round table on environment and economy. The Federal government had a round table on environment and economy. They were taking the advice to heart, looking at how do we integrate the principles of sustainable development into the policies and operation of government and the economy,” said Winter.
A Casualty Of Negative Politics
This vision became another casualty of the rise of negative politics. The right wing, especially, found they gained more mileage talking about negative things. They could use fear and hatred “to marginalize some other party as being the enemy” and win elections.
“We slid from being a country that had a positive vision for our country and were willing to work towards it, to one that is more reactive, negative, xenophobic and focused on material wealth.” said Winter.
Regain Control Of Canada
He added, “That is one of the reasons we need a social vision that rises above political visions and political values to say this is what we as Canadians want. We have to start marketing that message well before any election. It has to be outside the political sphere and become a social agenda. We need to regain control of the Canada we want.”
Winter hopes his report card can help reignite the debate and leadership around sustainability.
He selected 20 indicators.
The Vision For A Sustainable Canada
“What I wanted to do was track from visions down to action, so I split them into two sets of ten. The first set looks at vision, planning and funding; high level leadership. The second set consists of examples of the kind of future we would like to live in. The flow from vision to action is crucial. Strong leadership will empower positive change and support a wealth of economic and social initiatives across Canada.”
His first two questions arose out of the Global Goals set by the United Nations and how well that has carried into Canada’s vision. Do we have a good vision of sustainability?
Next, he looked at strategic planning on every level from the National Government down to business and volunteer ventures.
“There are positive signs in each of those. The National plan is the weakest. I found the Quebec plan to be the strongest because it is actually connected to the United Nation’s principles of sustainable development. It sets out a strong plan that requires each of the provincial ministries to participate and contribute. So it is actually using sustainable development as a lynchpin for the future development of the province of Quebec. I wish all the other provinces had that level of detail and commitment.”
One of the weaknesses he noticed was our inability to invest in the future we want. Despite all the revenues that Canada has enjoyed as a result of fossil fuel development, little of this money has been set aside to help out more sustainable ventures.
“The one I really flagged was the urban village, the notion that, whether we are living in suburbia or downtown cities, people like to have communities that are vibrant. They like to have communities where there are lots of amenities. They want their place to be a great place to live. That is a good trend because it is intrinsically a more sustainable model.”
Adding up the scores for all 20 items, Winter found that Canada scored 120 out of a possible 200 points. This is the equivalent to a “C,” but he saw the potential for a B+
He concluded his report by making five recommendations based on implementing the United Nations goals for sustainable development:
1. A public vision of the future we want – a coalition of senior organizations across Canada to translate the UN sustainability goals into a Canadian set of values and a vision for a healthy and sustainable future.
2. Better government leadership – refocus government strategies to focus on sustainable development as an ongoing, government-wide objective. Broaden the mandates of environment ministries to “Environment and Sustainability”. Recognize the value of sustainable development as a means to addressing climate change and adaptation.
3. Future Funds – develop major funds for investing in sustainability through dedicated carbon taxes and/or resource royalties.
4. Empower change – invest in the infrastructure, provide incentives and support initiatives that will help Canadians live better with less.
5. Engage Canadians – set up a national community action program to engage Canadians as part of the solution.
Read the full report here.
All photos courtesy Chris Winter & Canada Conserves
Reprinted with permission.
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